"You're right, the view is spectacular. Probably even better during the day," his eyes softened as they looked into hers.
It's like I can't catch my breath when he looks at me directly. What is wrong with me?
For his part, Perry was trying not to stare at her legs so he looked back out at the bay and searched his mind for a subject that might not cause problems. Conversation with Lalique at this point seemed like crossing a minefield. He knew he tended to needle her, but still she was definitely touchy. Definitely touchy and definitely gorgeous, exciting, intelligent and, and cranky in an endearing way. The lady was a lethal package. He couldn't remember when he had been this fascinated by a woman.
"You said you used to live in Pleasantview," he began, "I know quite a few people there, I wonder if we know anyone in common."
"Oh? Who do you know?"
He thought about it a second,
"Let's see. Well, Dr. Jody Broke, at the hospital; he's an acquaintance of mine. Then Bob Blackford, Devon and Royal Brecht, Jr., and David Lassiter. I've actually handled a few things for David's father, John, in fact. You probably know him, nearly everyone does. Oh, and Brian Ottomas, the owner of Club Dante, he's a good friend."
Lalique swallowed so hard that her throat clicked audibly.
Oh, fantastic, they're almost all my old boyfriends except for David Lassiter and Royal, Jr.. Did he read my diary or something?
"Uh, yes, I know a couple of them," she paused, "Look, maybe I should just get this out in the open right now and make things clear. My life is very complicated and I should be honest; I've actually dated some of the people you just mentioned. But now there's no room in my little world for romance, not anymore."
"It's no big deal if you went with any of them; it's a very small town. As for romance, I don't believe I asked you to elope, exactly. When it comes to dating in general, I know your kids are very small, but when they're a little older I'm sure--"
"No. I'm through with all that. Frankly, it never works out for me and I've decided to concentrate on others things," she hoped she sounded decisive and intelligent, but she had a feeling it was more like rigid and short-sighted.
"Sounds like you've been hurt."
"Not in the least," she lied firmly, "But...unfortunately things just don't go well for me in that department. So I don't care to have a love life anymore."
"I see. Your children..." he left it open. Obviously with four children one would assume she'd had a love life at some point.
"Alain and Desiree don't come from a romantic liaison, I used artificial insemination," she informed him, waiting for a negative reaction and wondering what in the world had prompted her to bare her soul to him.
"Well, they're really beautiful. I take it you wanted to remain independent and that was your choice?"
"Yes," she said primly, hoping strongly he would not ask if Brett and Noelle were conceived the same way.
He simply does not bring out the best in me; everything I say comes out wrong. And worse, I keep finding myself revealing things I had no intention of telling him.
"It's just that...and I don't mean to be insulting or forward at all...but, well, it's hard to imagine you would need to do that. What's wrong with the guys around here, anyway?"
"Nothing is wrong with them--I guess. I didn't say I needed to do it; it was my choice; I wanted children and I wanted them to be mine alone."
"As I said, Adrien and Desiree are wonderful kids. And I'm sure the littler ones are just as special."
She supposed this was in reference to her reluctance at having him interact with the babies.
"But you're far too young to just write off personal relationships," he went on.
"That's your opinion."
"That's right, it's my opinion, but I think it's a pretty rational one. Even if you don't want to marry or cohabitate, pushing men away will not only be a full time job in your case, but a lonely one. Don't you think you deserve better than that? You seem like you have a lot to offer, at least once anyone can get past the prickly front you put up."
Lalique shot to her feet and Perry quickly stood up as she did, a slight smile on his face.
"I am not prickly! Anyway, whatever you think, it's my life and frankly none of your business."
"You are the one who brought it up. Are you seriously telling me you will never date again? Never be involved with any man for the rest of your life?"
When he put it that way it sounded very bleak indeed.
"I don't want any love entanglements," she said stiffly, "I can't imagine when I would change my mind, if ever. Personal relationships are...messy."
"Life is messy, Lalique. But as you say it is your life. I just think it's a terrible waste in every way. I guess that would explain your irritability, though."
"My...my...irritability?" Lalique sputtered helplessly. Really, he was the most annoying, disturbing man, she couldn't even think of anything bad enough to call him and then suddenly his arms went around her as he pulled her to him roughly and kissed her. Not a gentle kiss at all, but one that asked no permission and pulled no punches.
She couldn't think; she felt lightheaded. Couldn't do anything but hang on. His mouth on hers felt so right; like it was a perfect fit. She almost threw her arms around him, so much did she want the kiss to go on and on. When she realized that it enraged her further. She pulled back and pushed him away at the same time.
"Stop it! What is wrong with you?"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to throw you," he told her, "But you must be aware that you look positively magnificent when you get mad. That's fortunate, I suppose, since you seem to be somewhat of a crosspatch."
"What are you saying?!" she nearly screamed at him, "Who asked you anyway? And I am not a crosspatch. I am just...opinionated."
"Definitely; opinionated and quick tempered. As I was saying, I didn't mean to throw you, but I don't really see why you're surprised; we've pretty much been leading up to this since we met. I knew from the moment I set eyes on you what I wanted. And you reared back on your hind legs the minute I came in. You knew it, too."
"Well, of all the conceited--I did nothing of the kind," she hissed, "Just because I didn't fall down and become a red carpet when you walked into Eden House doesn't mean--"
"You can put on this act, and we can keep circling each other, but it seems like a waste of time; we both know we're jonesing for each other," he insisted, his brows coming together over his nose, even as his mouth quirked on one side with humor.
"I am not "jonesing" for anyone," she declared.
Which was a lie, of course. She'd been longing for John for months. Even though she'd put an end to their affair, she'd been looking forward to suffering silently while dreaming about him the rest of her life.
In fact, remembering that, she wondered how she could put it aside so quickly and be attracted to Perry. He had become a baffling and humiliating problem to her in every way.
She paused a moment, trying to rally her pitiful defenses and her voice was suddenly that of a patient, but very weary, kindergarten teacher.
"Listen to me, Perry," she said slowly, "And try to understand. For an intelligent man it seems to me that you are comprehension impaired. I told you; I don't want to be attracted to anyone, do you get that? My children take all my time and energy. They are all I care about. If you think I'm looking for love or even just a fling, you have read me wrong. I am flung out."
"Okay, maybe you're not looking for it. But sometimes things come along that don't happen to be on the agenda...you have to be a little flexible, a little open to them or you'll miss a lot of good experiences in life."
"Is that so? Well, not only are you a gourmet chef, a dedicated gamer, stellar sportsman and hotshot lawyer, but you now have mad skills in philosophy. It must be wonderful to be perfect and know everything. And so, according to you, kissing Perry Everhart is one of the good things in life?"
"Well, that's not exactly what I meant, but I haven't had any complaints, either."
She hated that a smile was playing around his lips by now.
"Stop smirking, this is not funny."
"Yes, I'm afraid that it is. You're yelling at me but you're really mad at yourself. Once you calm down and honestly consider what I've said you'll see I'm right. I'll tell you what; how about I take you out next Friday--do you roller skate? I could pick you up and we could swing by the rink then have dinner somewhere after that."
She wanted to respond to his insistence that he was "right" with a scathingly snotty comment, but she was so bewildered by his rapid change of subject that she found herself actually contemplating his second question about skating.
"What? Well, I haven't skated since i was a child, but I suppose I remember enough to keep from--wait. Oh, no you don't. And let me guess; you probably were an Olympic roller skating hopeful back in 2002, right?"
He let the hyperbole roll right over him,
"No, I did take lessons for a couple years and won a competition when I was 10, but never did anything beyond that."
"I thought I was being sarcastic."
"So, is that a yes?"
"Oh!" Lalique stamped her foot in impotent wrath; he was simply impervious to insults, "You are the most--okay, that's it. It's time for everyone to go home; I have toddlers who are overdue for their snack and then bed and two babies to feed. Arlene! Arlene!"
Perry lingered on the porch steps as Arlene hurried out and Ray followed her looking quizzically at Perry.
"It's been fun, but all good things must end," Lalique announced to one and all.
Arlene grabbed Ray for one last kiss and then he headed to his junk heap of a car.
"Thanks for having us, Lalique, great meal!" he waved at Arlene and told her, "I'll call you tomorrow, angel."
Perry turned to Lalique,
"He's right, of course; the food was amazing and the company even better and I thank you for the invitation. I'll give you a couple days before I call, by then you should be over this little sulk."
Lalique froze; did he never tire of insulting her?
"Excuse me, but I do not sulk. As for calling me; don't bother, Mr. Everhart," she retreated to glacial condescension, "It has just become my fondest wish never to see you again."
He was getting into his own car and looked up at her with a lazy grin,
"Ah, but you will, beautiful, you will."
"Oh, stuff it!" Lalique finally snapped.
Perry only chuckled as he started his vehicle.
"Why, Lalique!" Arlene exclaimed, startled by her rudeness to a guest.
"Please take Alain and Desiree upstairs, give them their juice and put them to bed," she looked at Arlene who wisely shut her mouth and headed for the living room to get the children.
Lalique narrowed her eyes as she watched his tail lights disappear down the road. Impossible, the man was absolutely impossible. Of course, it was too bad that he was so alarmingly good-looking; that head of wavy auburn hair that curled over his collar, the compelling green eyes that looked at her as if he was stripping away all pretense right down to her soul, broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip he had long, muscular legs and...stop it. Just stop it. Well, she shrugged, so what if she found him singularly fascinating? That was merely a chemical reaction, simply a physical attraction. And everyone knew what could come from those. She was dismayed to realize she could still remember his mouth on hers and she rubbed her lips angrily with the back of her hand.
Locking the doors, and turning out the porch lights she headed up the stairs to her sweet babies.
So he was going to call her? Fine, let him try. She had no intention of answering any calls from Mr. Perfect Perry Everhart. That was absolutely and irrevocably final. Period. End of story.
To be continued...
Next blog update The Brothers Everhart - Pres Ch. 1 Undercover Lover